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The Adventures of two Fibre Artists.



Contributing Artists

Monday, January 30, 2006

Lace Project...part 3

I started with a nice lace scarf from the collection of patterns I have acquired over the years, some off of the internet, others from yearly visits to SAFF and others from places like Patternworks and Elann.com, two of my favorite catalogue sites, to begin my first real lacework project. Unfortunately I ran into a problem deciphering the instructions around the 6th row. I even posted to a lace discussion group and they could not figure out what it was instructing. My last hope was having my mother look at it and even she was confused. If she can't figure it out there is no hope. No matter, I have quiet a few beautiful patterns that I was trying to decide from and this is just one process of elimination, so I ripped out my work so far, and we all know I have long since lost the fear of ripping... and I chose another.

This particular pattern was offered by elann.com and seems more user friendly. That is to say that someone like me that is new to lace knitting is able to work it out without difficulty. I am using the lace weight mohair I spun, (see Lacework Project cont... below)and as you can see it seems to be working very well. I am having some difficulty putting it down because I am anxious to see the design become more real with each row. I know I will be pleased.

One of my favorite aspects of knitting, and there are many, is the company. I love getting together with others to knit, share, laugh and relax. And when I am home alone I have a knitting partner. He does not talk much but he does hum me a beautiful song that I find most relaxing. That is when he is lying quietly next to me, leaving my yarn be.

He always expresses and interest in any of my various fibre activities. He is especially fond of watching me wind yarn from my swift onto a ball winder. I can just see him getting dizzy as his head goes around and around as the swift spins.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Jack Of all Trades, Master of None

The Caplet, mentioned below, that I was using the variegated mohair/silk yarn for (see "Projects in the Mix") has succumed to the disposition of the dreaded Queen of Rip. This will be the second or third time I have ripped a project using that particular skein and it is beginning to look a little rough. I just can't seem to get a reign on her. She is too quick to influence me when I am in the slightest doubt. She has become quite an enigma and I suspect the real problem is that I have no real direction.

There are so many wonderful, creative ways to use fibre that one can become overwhelmed. Looking at knitting patterns alone, as exciting as it can be, can make your head hurt, there are so many that you can't get your bearing. Suddenly you want to knit everything. I think I might be at the stage where my eyes are bigger than my stomach so to say. I want to do everything and am finding that I have become the Jack of all but Master of none. There is just so much I wnat to do that I really need some direction.

I have decided to try to focus on what really excites me, and that is lacework. So other than the occasional exception, when choosing projects, whether it be a scarf, shawl, afghan, even sweater, I will stay with lace patterns. I will concentrate on spinning with lace work in mind, when choosing colors or dyeing my own I will be mindful of what will work best with lace patterns, when I....well you get the picture.

By doing this I hope to be able to master the technique that will, in my opinion, best represent the animal or plant that offers it's fibre. That is not to say that I won't enjoy experimenting or creating other type projects from time to time.

Some fibres, not matter how exciting or tempting will be easy to find obliging to lace knitting. This is a good example. The colors alone were tempting and I had not seen so much luster in any other fibre, other than mohair, but when I found out what it was, I had to buy some. It is called Ingeo and it is made from corn. I can't wait to spin it and discover it's texture once spun.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Merino vs Mohair

Last night I thought I would try spinning some merino top I had bought from Saff several years back, lace weight, to see how it differed from the mohair. Not only in the technique itself, how it spins/twists up, but also how it looks.

As I began spinning I noticed some trash that I did not remember being there and in closer inspection my suspicion was confirmed. Carcasses of some kind of dead insect, yuck..... I will spare everyone the gorey details and won't include a picture. Fortunately there was a small amount, superficially, they did not get down into the roving. It would have been a real shame because this is some really nice merino, well that goes without saying, can merino be anything else? That is to say it was processed well and a joy to spin. I could see where the fibre had become brittle from the insects making a home there so I had to waste that portion but then again, fortunately it was not much.

My observations, when comparing the merino with mohair, were first that the drafting had to be much shorter. It didn't seem to twist as easily. It also lacked the luster that mohair has as well as the halo-ing, which goes without saying.

While merino has many good qualities, I suspect I am going to be more pleased with the over all characteristics of the end creation when mohair was used on lacework projects. Whether it be my propensity toward mohair, since I raise angora goats is the question. Next I will try blending the two and, who knows, the characteristics of both, complementing each other may end up being quite a treasure.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lacework project cont....

After allowing the mohair to dry on the niddy noddy over night I wound it into a ball using the ballwinder, which I have found to be very helpful. I used to wind the yarn into a ball manually or onto a nostepinde, which is quite effective, resulting in a centre pull ball as with the ball winder, but much slower. I checked the gauge once again and am getting between 20 and 21 w.p.i. so it is not as thin as I had hoped but not too bad for my first attempt.

There are a few projects I have in mind. But before I attempt an Orenburg shawl I think I might try a pattern from
Knitty.com. They have a nice free pattern section of some unique projects. I encourage you to check them out. If you are looking for something out there or unusual check out thier "Whimsies" section.

The particular pattern I hope to try is called
Branching Out. Still, don't hold me to it. I have been know to change my mind several times before possibly coming back to the very same pattern or choosing another. Just ask my fibre sister, my mantra should be "when in doubt, rip it out"....

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Giving Thanks for Gifts

Last night as I as winding my laceweight mohair off the bobbin on to the niddy noddy to steam and set the twist I began admiring my stash. I know there are other fibre artists out there that can relate and possibly enjoy this activity from time to time. I love to just run my hands through my stash periodically, dreaming of projects that will do it justice. I came across a gift my Godmother gave me recently. I remember when she gave me this brown paper bag full of fibre that she had been given several years ago and asked if I could use it. What was visible was in questionable condition but as I put my hand down into the bag, reaching down below what was visible and feeling something so soft and luxurious that before I knew it I exclaimed, "Oh my God", giving thanks for what I knew I had found, but you can imagine my embarrassment finding I was within earshot of the class just breaking up and our Priest was teaching. He inquired if anything was wrong and I had to have him put his hand into the bag and feel how wonderful it was. He knows how much my fibre crafts mean to me and indulged me my excitement.

What I had found below was a large quantity of soft and luxurious angora fibre. Knowing what I had here I had to ask her if she was sure she wanted me to have this wonderful treasure. I told her I would be happy to teach her how to spin but as Abbess of a local Orthodox Monastery she has resigned to the fact that she may never have time to learn and wanted me to put it to good use.

I gave some to my fibre sister, we share everything, and am resisting the temptation to just spin it up and run with it, using it for the next project I find, but I want to be sure I use it wisely. I want to save it for something special.

My last visit to the Monastery I was brushing one of the dogs and collected quite a bit of downy fibre. I brought it home and spun it up. I was pleasantly surprised how well it spun and the nuns continue to bring me what fibre they collect when they groom her. I hope to weave a nice Icon scarf with it.

As I look at these gifts I have to give thanks where it is due, perhaps better not to offer it by thoughtlessly blurting it out as I did when I first reached into the bag, but a bit more privately, sincerely, mindfully.....

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Projects in the Mix

While waiting for the twist to sett on the lace weight mohair, I like to leave any newly spun yarn on the bobbin for at least a day before taking it off.

I filled a bobbin of lace weight mohair last night and am leaving it on the bobbin to sett the twist. I like to leave any newly spun yarn for at least 24 hours before transferring it to the niddy noddy, steaming it then allowing it to dry for another 24 hours. I have found this to be the most stable method to insure the fibre forgets it's old memory and learns a new twist.

Before spinning another bobbin I will wait until I can be sure my first attempt at spinning this lace weight is sound, which means another day or so. In the mean time I have ripped out an old project I started.....sometimes I feel I am the Queen of rip, the First Lady of tink. I can be so critical of my work but it was obvious I had chosen the wrong project for this particular yarn. It just was not turning out the way I had hoped.

This particular yarn is the first yarn I have actually worked with that I had not spun up myself. I bought it at SAFF last October. Some wonderful variegated blue/mauve-ish color mohair/silk blend, a color I would not have been able to duplicate dyeing with natural materials.

I thought I would be able to use this yarn for some lace work but what I did not take into consideration when visually inspecting it is that because of the distinct halo properties, one of the beautiful characteristics mohair offers, it can be a little misleading. The yarn itself looks quite thin but the halo actually increases the w.p.i. and that needs to be taken into consideration when planning a project. I have to admit more than a few of my projects, though have ended well, were not exactly as I had intended. I wonder how often that happens to other artists? But then, this is how we learn.

When it became painfully obvious that the project I had hoped to create using this yarn was not truning out as I had hoped, I employed one of my more frequent techniques.....I ripped it out, which is not all that easy with mohair as the halo tends to stick together, you end up with some very fuzzy yarn the more you ripp-it. Instead I have chosen a caplet with larger openwork that will show better even with the halo. I found the pattern at Crystal Palace.

Addendum: If this post seems as if it was not well thought out or ends rather ubruptly may I suggest to take care not to leave the keyboard with a cat in the room. I came back to find nearly half the article missing and something I could not quite make out, as I do not speak cat, in it's place. I had a nice talk with him about editing my work.

He also finds more important uses for my knitting basket.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Spirituality of Fibre Art

As I prepare for Divine Liturgy this morning and my mind is drawn to all things spiritual I consider that this would be an appropriate article for a Sunday.

Any spinner, knitter, weaver or anyone participating in another fibre activity can tell you how spiritual the craft is. Like gardening, canoeing, or sitting quietly, petting any furbaby, you almost immediately slip into a meditative state. Working with fibre is rich in spirituality on so many levels. When I work on a project, using natural fibres I try to contemplate how it can become a representative of the animal or plant that offered it's fibre.

When working on an article that will be used for a more religious purpose, like an altar cloth, icon scarf, even a bookmark, I will pray, recite scripture and, or, sing/chant.

There is even a technique one can use when weaving called name drafting where you can assign letters to different harnesses and spell out words and even phrases by raising the appropriate shafts. If you have ever looked closely at an icon of the Annunciation you may have noticed in the hand of the Virgin Mary, she is holding a spindle loaded with thread for weaving the curtains in the temple where she stayed before she became the Theotokos.

The active rhythm of treadling of the wheel, beating of the loom, raising and sinking of the harnesses, or knitting of the stitch can can slow the breathing, influence the rhythm of the heartbeat, lower the blood pressure, rocking you into promoting good health physically as well as mental and spiritually.

What a wonderful gift we are given to be able to participate in this labour of love. And that is truly what it is , why else would we invest so much time and energy into something that is not economically sound. Because as we all know, and this has been put to me many times, that there is no way we fibre artist could compete with Wal-mart. It is indeed unforturante that people don't take into consideration that we are creating art, not just producing merchandise. And how we would be hard pressed to try to make a living at doing this.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

It all began...

My first real introduction into the world of Fibre, other than my mother's attempt to teach me knitting as a young girl, which I quickly became quite bored with as more important interests kept me busy, began at the beginning of the new millennium. I happened to catch a television show on spinning and weaving, thought how neat it would be to learn, and if I was going to learn I was going to start from the beginning. I fell in love with each new fibre experience, from goat to coat, hard, fast and have not looked back.

This includes caring for a small spinner's herd of angora goats as well as spinning, weaving, knitting, felting, natural dyeing and more. If you are interested I invite you to read an article I wrote for Country Side magazine that illustrates how I began My Fiber Adventures.

Unfortunately I live in an area where my excitement for fiber arts is not shared. It is really too hot to enjoy wool articles and where there is no need, there is very little interest. So for awhile I had to be content in being the lone participant in my fibre adventures. My dear husband encouraged me but beyond that his only interest is in the occasional hat, slippers or other articles of clothing that I make for him.

After teaching myself to spin a loom almost literally fell into my lap. I got such a good deal on it I could not refuse and so with the help of Deborah Chandler's book, "Learning to Weave" I began to do just that, learn to weave. I decided to join an online discussion list for weavers as an attempt at some kind of contact with others who enjoy working with natural fibre and met someone who I found, to my delight, lived, not only in the same state but the same town. Finally someone to share my growing love of fiber with. We met offline and have become fast friends.

My fibre sister and I have done all that we can to promote interest in fibre art here. This includes demonstrations to a local knitting guild, library, yearly demonstrations to our state fair and the occasional private lessons. While we do get encouragement in the form of positive feedback about how nice it is that someone is still creating clothing as it was done in the not too distant past, still these comments quickly turn to how little time they have to devote to spinning or weaving. Even when they ask for private lessons and it seems as though we may have enough interest to start a guild they soon either grow board or find they don't have the time to keep the interest up. So we keep demonstrating, educating and hoping.

Together my fibre sister and I have spent many a Sunday afternoon experimenting and exploring other fibre activities such as natural dyeing, felting and I have even picked up knitting again. Once the needles were back in my hands I found that like riding a bike, it all came back to me nicely.

During one or our yearly trips to Asheville NC for SAFF, the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair, I saw a beautiful Orenburg shawl and vowed then and there that my goal was to become talented enough to create something that wonderful.

My first attempt at lace work was this mohair shawl that I created on a triangle loom, which is a story in itself.

The triangle loom was a gift from my husband. I awoke one Nativity eve to the sound of tap...tap...tap... and after lying there for several minutes, listening, curiosity got the better of me and I went to the source to find my dear husband on the floor nailing hundreds of little finishing nails into a triangle loom he had built. As usual he waited almost too late, the eternal procrastinator, one of the things I have learned to love about him. I felt sorry for him so I joined him and together it was finished around 6 am.

The mohair were a gift from my goats who continue to offer me wonderful fibre to work with. The darker stripes in the shawl are a result of dyeing the mohair in black walnut hulls. I was very pleased with the results and even received a 1st prize ribbon at that year's fair. But now I am ready to try my hand at lace knitting, I can only hope my talent matches my enthusiasm.

Before attempting to knit lace I have to spin the yarn for my new project. Last night I started filling my bobbin with lace weight mohair. The trick being how much twist to put into it to produce a stable yarn without the pigtailing, which is a real problem trying to spin so thin.

I managed about 22 w.p.i. and this adventure begins....

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